Light Blight

That’s the side of my house that faces the gas station. The strip of shadow is where the fence ends. Those windows belong to my (former) bedroom, the dining room below, and the kitchen (with the back door). It’s not shown but the french door to my back porch behind the kitchen is also well lit. It looks like this every single night.

I took these photos with my camera on a basic setting. I haven’t tinkered with them to lighten them. The camera makes computerized adjustments.

This is what it looks like from the street. There’s a streetlight a little ways down, towards Hamilton Rd. It’s bright enough with just that. One photo is lighter than it looks in real life, the other is darker. Imagine something in between:

junenight1.jpg

junenight2.jpg

That would be a reasonable amount of light to be directed at the side of my house. The difference is obvious.

Because the gas station is on the most elevated portion of the street, and the way that the canopy and pumps are arranged, the headlights from a large truck or SUV that pull in from Hamilton Rd sweep across four of the houses across the street, right at the level of their living room windows. I am confused why my neighbours are not furious about this. This is a completely predictable outcome ! This is an issue about the elevation of the gas station property, but also the PLANNED direction for gas station customers. The pumps and canopy could have been oriented  perpendicular to this street. That way the canopy would have completely sheltered customers as they walked from the pump to the convenience store, and headlights would not affect any residential properties. This is a couple of  houses right across the street when the headlights sweep across:

lightsweep.jpg

This is what it looks like inside my former bedroom at night. This is facing the gas station. My half curtains are semi-opaque:

brightbedr.jpg

Viewed from the hall:

fromthehall.jpg

With the windows at my back facing the hall:

faceaway.jpg

In the hall and stairwell. The light shines through the doorway and transom and illuminates the far side of the house ! From dusk until dawn.

farside.jpg

This is excessive and unnecessary. Other municipalities actually have laws which address light pollution and light infiltration. Not London, Ontario, though !

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/light-pollution-east-carlaw-memnon-1.4888524

Click to access nuisancelighting2013.pdf

Toronto has a very comprehensive document about effective lighting in an urban context:

Click to access 8ff6-city-planning-bird-effective-lighting.pdf

Did you know that the light from bright LEDS can cause negative effects on humans, including permanent retinal damage ? And endocrine disruption ? And serious negative effects on wildlife ?

https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/environment/exposure-to-led-lights-could-be-harmful-scientists-suggest-a-simple-solution-58544

https://inews.co.uk/news/environment/bright-led-lights-can-affect-wildlife-as-much-as-midday-sun-scientists-warn-282156

Many businesses (and people) believe that bright lighting prevents crime. There have been studies which contradict this. One even found that criminals PREFERRED bright locations, as it helped them to see what to steal, and it made THEM feel safer !

Click to access LightingForSafetyAndSecurity.pdf

Obviously the Dark Sky Society has an agenda – less light pollution. Here’s more information about lighting, safety and crime:

Lighting, Crime and Safety

Here’s an interesting study about service station lighting that shows that reduced and shielded lighting for gas stations actually increased sales at those stations:

Service Station Lighting

Click to access canopy.pdf

My neighbour’s excessive lighting actually makes my property less safe. The glare from the EXTREMELY BRIGHT lights over the tire compressor make it impossible to see details in my front and back yard. If this lighting was replaced with a lower, shielded task lighting, none would infiltrate my property. Tire compressor users would also probably have a better time seeing what they are doing. As it is the light is above and behind the compressor – making the instructions for use harder to read. That light is much brighter than at my doctor’s exam room – yet no surgery of any kind is performed by the tire compressor. The lighting could also be motion sensitive – so it would only come on when in use.

It all brings me back to questions about why this is exempt from City Planning and bylaw enforcement ? It is excruciating to look at and serves little positive purpose.

Talking To Petroleum Contractors

I have no information about which company did the installation of the new gas storage tank and modified vent location. Whoever it was were just following instructions, within the limits of code, as they understood it.

I contacted a bunch of petroleum contractors via email, to see if it would be possible for the vent location to be moved.  I chose them randomly, and sent them all the same inquiry. Some were more willing to engage than others. My inquiry read:

” Hi. I am wondering if someone could answer a somewhat broad question for me ?

I live next to a gas station that was recently renovated. The vents for the underground storage tanks are now 4′ from the property line, adjacent to my doors and windows. As a result, I have the infiltration of gasoline vapours into my home during a tanker refuelling, depending on the wind direction.

Is it possible for the vent location to be moved ? If so, what does this entail, and what is the approximate expense ?

I understand that your answer is not a quote, and obviously the logistics would depend on the specifics of the station. Any general information regarding this matter would be appreciated.

I have reported this to the TSSA and the Ministry of the Environment many times.

Thanks,

Andrea”

The most minimalist reply I received was this:

“The vents can be relocated by digging up the area and modifying the route of the piping.”

Others were more helpful:

“If the MOE and TSSA are unable to help, I would contact the Fire Prevention Department . There is no limit to the height of the vents, so they could be raised higher to be above any openings. Hope this helps.”

” So sorry for your issue. The only other option would be to have another contractor inspect it.”

This person sent a diagram of a truck loading and advice about how to identify the vapour recovery hose in use.

This contractor said: ” I would recommend the vents be extended to get the vapours away from your door/windows. It is potential (sic) a serious health concern with the chemical compounds in fuel vapour.”

This contractor offered : “Please note that the vents appear to meet the code. The issue of vapour recovery is an environmental one. Even if they use the vapour recovery, if they can drop fuel too fast (as is the case because the drivers are paid by how many loads they deliver in a day), the vapour recovery can’t handle the vapour flow rate. They either have to slow the flow or install larger vapour recovery.”

More about that: ” The placement of the tank vents, while legal, was a bad design, but there is a requirement that the site have and use a vapour recovery system on the gasoline tanks. If they are using it, and you are getting fuel odours during a fuel drop, it is undersized for the fuel drop rate. They either have to increase the capacity or slow the drop rate. This falls under Environment not TSSA and they are notoriously poor at pursuing these cases.”

One of them sent a couple of excerpts from the fuel handling code. I learned how far an underground storage tank had to be from a property line (a question the TSSA would not answer for me): 1.5 meters. That’s 59.1 INCHES.

2.2.1. Location of tanks

An underground storage tank shall not be installed

(a) inside or under any building;

(b) less than 1 m from a building;

(c) less than 1.5 m from a property line;

(d) less than 60 cm from an adjacent underground storage tank;

(e) less than 15 m from drilled water wells;

(f) less than 30 m from a dug water well or waterway; and

(g) where the loads carried by a building foundation or supports could be

transmitted to the tank.

So now – would you feel safe eating anything planted in my garden ? The brightest areas are closely adjacent to those vent pipes…

 

 

Unsafe In My Own Backyard

The winter of 2018 held on into 2019 far later and longer than it usually did. It was damp, chilly and miserable throughout April and into May. Even my perennials were at least two weeks behind schedule. When the weather improved I was happy to spend some time in the yard again.

I repainted my vintage patio set and hung up some leftover canvas drop cloths. The area beside the terrible fence still had 42″ chainlink.

patio.jpg

This had the gas station’s gas meter, and had become a dumping ground for whatever debris was abandoned – old tires, torn cloth flyers, partial boards and whatever else got dumped there. There was no gate to contain this, and the mess was visible in my yard, right next to my patio area.

dumpingground.jpg

At some point I noticed a black box on the ground, pushed right up against the fence towards my side. It was unmarked. At first I thought it had something to do with cable or internet. When I walked home from the library I noticed another one in the factory’s parking lot, pushed right up against the chainlink fence at the back of the lot. This one WAS marked, and I realized they were rodent bait traps. But this wasn’t even on the gas station’s property !

I did some googling, to find out what the laws were about these things, but could not find much information. I contacted Health Canada, and after a somewhat protracted inquiry process learned that the use of these horrible things was legal, even adjacent to a residence. I also learned what was in the bait stations: Bromadiolone.

http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/bromadgen.html

As I have cats, I have never had a rodent problem. I am also very careful with food storage, and have most of my loose food staples in jars or tins with tight lids. I never have dry cat food left out, either. The cats are fed at mealtimes and the empty dishes picked up.

While I compost, I also compost the cat’s wood based litter. The poop is scooped and flushed, the peed on pellets turn to sawdust. Cat urine is said to be a powerful mouse DETERRENT: https://www.hunker.com/13422387/how-to-get-rid-of-mice-with-cat-urine

The gas station has ongoing issues with staff not using the dumpster properly. I’ve complained about it before:

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/03/09/garbage-exasperation/

I’ll bet gas station customers dump all kinds of horrible trash in the cans by the pumps – rancid drive through food containers, junk food wrappers and anything else that might be floating around in a car or truck. As far as I can tell the convenience store does not sell any kind of fresh food. Many bottles, cans and wrappers end up in my yard.

This summer there were several small bags of wretched smelling garbage dumped by the tire compressor. I could sure smell them on my side. At the same time, the mountain of garbage built up beside the dumpster and stayed that way for close to a week, in the sweltering sun. Here’s a photo from the beginning of July, 2019:

july:19garbage.jpg

Here’s a photo from the end of July, 2019, featuring the horror garbage by the compressor:

endofjuly:19.jpg

Now if there was a rodent issue at the convenience store – which only sells pre-packaged foods in sealed containers – then the issue seems to be with SANITATION. Stinking bags of food related garbage, like leftovers and wrappers, that were not emptied daily into the locked dumpster seem much more likely to attract rodents than my compost, yard or garden. There were no rodent bait stations next to the dumpster or receptacles by the front door or pumps.

The menial retail jobs I’ve had always had rules about making sure the shop was tidy before it was opened, and before it was closed. I have a hard time understanding that a 24 hr store does not have rules about staff ensuring that the store and yard were tidy. If people dumped their trash on the gas station’s property – it was still the gas station’s responsibility to ensure the garbage was properly contained. Of course an enclosure around the dumpster would help with that a lot. Why isn’t there one ?

About the Bromadiolone: This is a powerful anticoagulant. Rodents who visit the bait station ingest the Bromadiolone, but it takes them close to five days to die. They bleed to death internally. This is much crueller than a snap trap.

http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/bromadgen.html

Many animals die from secondary exposure to Bromadiolone. A cat, or hawk or owl eats the poisoned (but still alive mouse), then dies from the anticoagulant the mouse consumed. Given that the station is approximately two blocks from wild parkland next to the river, this is unconscionable. This explains what happens:

https://www.audubon.org/magazine/january-february-2013/poisons-used-kill-rodents-have-safer

I have cats, including a couple who are mousers, that eat their prey. The presence of these bait stations has meant that I cannot even safely let these cats into their own yard !

Here’s a terrible account of what happened to one cat, from a cat rescue group in NYC (Little Wanderers, July 5, 2019, Facebook). Even the veterinarian could not save this cat, who was otherwise being treated for a minor wound:

Screen Shot 2019-09-15 at 9.44.25 PM.png

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As far as I know, there are at least 11 cats that live on this street, and 6 dogs. Right across the street from the station are two sketchy rental houses with at least 2 dogs. As any pet owner knows, it can be impossible to see what your pet has in their mouth, if you’ve turned your head for even a moment. If your pet has suddenly become unwell, the ER Vet Clinic can do what they can to diagnose and treat your pet – IF you can afford it. Critical care for a pet can quickly cost thousands of dollars. If they can save your pet, they will – but there are no guarantees. They will do what they can. Despite this your pet may still die, and you have to pay that bill for services rendered.

You can call the Animal Poison Control Center, but even that phone call will cost $ 59.00 USD for someone to try to help you: https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com

I’ve been careful to not have toxic plants in my yard, I don’t use pesticides or herbicides and I am still not able to keep my pets safe on my own property due to someone else’s actions.

There’s many things a household or business can do to PREVENT a rodent infestation – most of them are common sense. Poisoning is such a hateful and lazy solution.

http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/2014/09/cruelty-free-pest-control-rats-and-mice/

https://www.jcehrlich.com/mice/why-are-there-mice-in-my-house/

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/pest-control-tips/rats-mice.html

 

 

 

Summer 2019: Fence Redaction

The terrible fence erected by the gas station hurt my brain every single time I looked at it. Through the winter, strong winds pushed it around. Since the 4 x 4 posts ARE NOT EVEN SET INTO ANYTHING the winds loosened up the weakest points. It was built at the end of August 2018. By Feb. 2019, the fence looked like this:

feb19badfence.jpg

Only the unused vintage light post stopped it from falling over completely:

badfencegood.jpg

The guy who built the fence was bullied into making some kind of repairs, none of which could fix the lack of structural integrity.

Suddenly in June, part of the fence was disassembled. I had some hope that a properly constructed fence would be put up in its place.

fenceundone.jpg

The same guy who built the fence took the fence apart. I gave him the name of the posthole place I had previously used, and said the fence needed properly set posts. A gap was left in the fence, which exposed part of my backyard, which made me nervous. I screwed up part of a sheet of plywood to at least make access more difficult. After 10 days or so, work on the fence resumed.

Gas station’s solution: have the guy who made the terrible fence reassemble it in exactly the same way, but with gigantic 3″ screws this time. And a couple of extra boards. And a little more duct strapping to secure it to the 4′ former chain link posts, now augmented with another piece of post inside that one:

badfence repair.jpeg

No concept of the “good neighbour side” here.

London, unlike other civilized municipalities, makes no mention in the fence or property standards bylaw that the structure of the fence must be stable ! This is what the City of Ottawa’s Property Standards document says, for example:

https://ottawa.ca/en/property-standards-law-no-2013-416#part-i-obligations-and-repair-standards

“Section 10 – Fences and other enclosures

(1) Fences, retaining walls and other enclosures around or on a residential property shall be kept,

(a) in good repair;

(b) free from accident hazards;

(c) protected by paint, preservatives, or other weather resistant material, except for wooden fences made of cedar, redwood or treated wood;

(d) so as not to present an unsightly appearance;

(e) stable;

(f) vertical, unless specifically designed to be other than vertical as in the case of retaining walls; and

(g) free of barbed wire ”

The City of London is not Ottawa, though.

The 3″ screws poked through the boards in my direction, in a most alarming fashion.

I contacted the same posthole place I previously used, to inquire about how close to the retaining wall posts could be set on my side. The guy who came to quote was baffled by the fence the gas station built.

It was possible for the station to have posts professionally set into the asphalt surface on the gas station’s side, so I wasn’t just imagining an unworkable solution. It would also be possible for posts to be set very close to the retaining wall, on my side. HOWEVER – due to the difference in elevation (close to 48″), I would be breaking the fence bylaw to erect my own fence as tall as the gas station’s mediocre one. To build my own law-breaking-fence would easily cost close to $ 3000.00 including materials and labour. The city could force me to modify or remove the non-conforming potential fence.

I couldn’t look out my dining room, kitchen or back porch windows without seething at their fence atrocity. Walking out the front door was a little less bad, but it still wasn’t a neutral sight.

I pondered what could be done. The fence was so unstable it made no sense to attach some sort of covering like a trellis. I planted Smoke Bushes in the front, in 2017, but they will take 8 – 10 years to be tall and full enough to obscure the fence.

Painting my side seemed like an exercise in futility. There would be no way to control the drips onto their side. This was a labour intensive solution, and even the blackest paint could not obscure the fence’s obvious deficits.

I pursued information on the fastest growing hedge, vines and trees. For anything to grow 10 feet tall, to reach to the top of the fence, to densely obscure the offensive construction would take years to grow. Quick “solutions” like planting tall cedars were fairly expensive, and unreliable. I stared hard at all the local hedges I encountered, then looked backwards via Streetview to see how long they took to attain their height.

I wondered about hanging up some sort of privacy cloth. Proper canvas for exterior applications – like awnings – is made from acrylic, which has decent UV protection against fading and rot. This lasts for about 5 years until it starts to deteriorate. I priced various cloth options. The 6′ fence height meant that cloth would need to be horizontally pieced to make it wide enough. This volume of cloth, soaking wet from rain or snow, also gets heavy. I calculated that I would need 30 yards to cover their fence.

I noticed an ad for recycled billboard tarps. They were HUGE – 14 x 48′. They were printed on one side, and opaque black on the reverse. The vinyl was UV resistant and reinforced with fibers to strengthen it. This made me think. I went and looked at it once, then went back a second time to buy one. Each tarp weighs 40 lbs, and they are unwieldy. Even black plastic would be better to look at than the ghastly fence. This was the least expensive ( $ 80.00) and least labour intensive option.

It was nerve wracking marking and cutting the tarp. I didn’t have a space large enough to lay out the entire thing (ie trees and bushes in my yard) so I unrolled smaller sections and measured twice. I stitched the edges and installed grommets.

It was impossible to make the tarp sections lay flat due to the bizarre construction. I did what I could to make it presentable:

redacted1.jpg

The backyard had the worst, most seasick fence construction. I didn’t love installing the tarp, or the lack of smoothness, but my brain felt so much quieter not seeing the awful fence:

theworst.jpg

backtarp.jpg

The tarp is screwed to the fence, so it is completely removable. To install the sections meant standing on an extension ladder, with my weight leaning on the fence. To say this felt precarious is an understatement.

One small unexpected bonus of the tarps was the amount of lught they blocked. I was surprised to see how much light infiltrated between the fence boards. This is with the section to to the left covered, with two sections left to go:

fencelight.jpg

The redaction is a far from perfect solution but it is an improvement.

Now if only there was some kind of code or bylaw about commercial neighbours adjacent to a residence, light pollution, privacy, sound control and basic building code ???

 

 

 

I Contacted Health Canada

I sent this email on May 28, 2019:

” Hi Health Canada.

I am wondering if there are any studies about the air quality surrounding gas stations ?

I live in London, ON. The commercial lot next door was recently converted to a 24 hr gas station, and the vent for the underground storage tanks are now located 4′ from the property line, adjacent to my doors and windows. I have experienced gasoline vapours within my home on numerous occasions, during tanker refills, depending on the wind direction.

Does Health Canada have any studies or research about what a safe distance a residence should be from a gas station ?

I have been in contact with the TSSA and the Ministry of the Environment and have gotten nowhere with their representatives.

Thanks,

Andrea”

Health Canada replied on May 30, 2019:

“Thank you for contacting Health Canada.

Your recent inquiry has been redirected to the appropriate area for a response.

Sincerely, Health Canada ”

On June 10, 2019 I received this reply from ESRAB Director (Existing Substances Risk Assessment Bureau):

” Dear Andrea,

Thank you for your inquiry.

To date, Health Canada has not conducted any monitoring studies related to the air quality surrounding gas stations.

Gasoline is a complex mixture containing a number of chemicals, including benzene. Benzene was assessed by Health Canada in 1993 and found to be harmful to human health due to its hazardous properties. It was added to the List of Toxic Substances (schedule 1) of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. Many risk management actions are in place to reduce Canadian’s exposure to benzene, including the Benzene in Gasoline Regulations and the Gasoline and Gasoline Blend Despensing Flow Rate Regulations.

Health Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada are currently conducting a draft risk assessment of gasoline under Canada’s Chemical Management Plan. The draft conclusions on the potential human health and ecological risks will be published for public consultation. The assessment will consider exposure of Canadians to gasoline from periodic refuelling of vehicles, as well as long term exposure due to living near service stations and bulk gasoline storage facilities. You can sign up to be notified via email with updates that provide the latest news on actions being taken by the Government of Canada to assess and manage chemical substances under the Chemicals Management Plan here: http://www.chemicalsubstancesschimiques.gc/ca/listserve/index-eng.php

If you detect strong gasoline vapours, ensure that windows and doors to your home are closed and that household ventilation systems are well maintained and operating properly.

Health Canada recommends Canadians speak to their doctor or health care provider if they are concerned about their exposure tp gasoline.

If you repeatedly notice a strong gasoline odour in your house that you suspect may be coming from a nearby service station, health Canada recommends that you contact your local Provincial or Municipal Environmental or Health Department.

Ontario has Ontario regulation 455/94 RECOVERY OF GASOLINE VAPOUR IN BULK TRANSFERS, last amended as O. Reg.257/11 that describes the required infrastructure and actions for the filling of underground gasoline storage tanks. You may wish to discuss these requirements with the Ministry of the Environment representative.

Sincerely,

XXXXXXX XXXXXXXX

Acting Director, Existing Substances Risk asessment Bureau”

This vortex of unhelpful bureaucracy, felt like receiving a reply from an Orwellian robot.

Health Canada has never conducted ANY monitoring studies about air quality near gas stations ? After they have been in widespread operation for more than 100 YEARS ?! And I am advised to keep my doors and windows closed ? And to contact the local health department if I smell strong gasoline vapours ?

This nightmare just goes around in circles.

I Contacted the Public Health Department

My email, sent May 28, 2019:

” I am wondering if you could direct me to any guidelines regarding health and safety for people who live adjacent to a gas station ?

I am a resident of London. The commercial lot next to me was recently converted to a 24 hr gas station. The vents for the underground storage tanks are now located 4′ from the property line, and adjacent to the doors and windows in my home. When there is a tanker refuelling, depending on the wind direction, I often have gasoline fumes in my home, even with all the doors and windows closed.

Does the Public Health Department have any information about the effects this has on nearby residents, or other guidelines ?

I have been in contact with the TSSA and the Ministry of the Environment, and have gotten nowhere. There is nothing I can do to correct this situation.

Any information would be appreciated.

Thanks.

Andrea ”

Their reply, from a Public Health Inspector, May 28, 2019:

“Good Afternoon Andrea,

Thank you for sending along your email. The designation and approval for the placement of gas stations and other commercial properties is controlled by municipal planning and zoning, a department within the city of London which would be able to answer your questions more precisely in regards to this operation. As the City of London designates these locations, they should also be able to refer to best practices for the safe operation and prevention of volatile vapours such as gasoline. Although the Middlesex-London Health Unit does not specifically govern these types of land uses, the City of London in conjunction with the Ministry of the Environment should be able to assist you.

If you require further information or assistance please feel free to contact me.

Regards,

XXXXXX XXXXXXX BHSc, CPHI (C)

Public Health Inspector

Food Safety and Healthy Environments Team ”

I replied:

“Thank you for your prompt reply.

The previous use of that lot was a used car lot that sold a small amount of gas. As the building was renovated – no new construction – and there was no change of use, this was exempt from Site Planning Approval. The last site planning that occurred for this address happened approximately 70 years ago ! The previous business was open 8 hrs a day, 6 days a week. It is now a 24 hr business.

I have contacted all the local city departments, that I thought might help, including Site Planning, Bylaw Enforcement, etc. At present, the City of london does not even have a bylaw for nuisance lighting. I have also contacted the Ontario Fire Marshall’s office, who redirected me to the TSSA.

I have contacted the TSSA and the Ministry of the Environment. The TSSA is responsible for fuel handling, and therefore a municipality has no say in the location of the vents.

The TSSA sent an inspector. This was the same inspector who approved this vent location. How he has the authority to inspect his own work is beyond me.

Since the gas station has been open, I have had three cats develop a variety of health issues, including eye irritation and oral ulcers, another cat went into acute liver failure after several gasoline vapour infiltrations in one month, and a third cat became so ill with severe anemia and liver and kidney failure that she had to be euthanized. My vet clinic has little information about chronic exposure to gasoline vapours in cats, and less experience, as this is uncommon. None of these cats had these health issues before.

When the gasoline vapours infiltrate my house, there is nothing I can do to stop or mitigate this. I can’t even open a door or window as the vapours are coming from outside !

I have been told by the TSSA, and the Ministry of the Environment, that I must arrange for my own air quality tests, to prove there is an ongoing issue. This must be done by licensed environmental consultants – I cannot gather my own air samples. Each visit, with samples taken, lab work and a report costs $ 2200.00 plus HST ! There are no grants to assist a homeowner in this situation. The TSSA and Ministry of the Environment have taken NO air quality samples.

If there is another department that may be better able to assist with this situation, please direct me to them

Thanks,

Andrea”

To this email I received no reply.

I Contacted the Ontario Fire Marshal

Next I wrote to the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office. I have been told (though I can find no citation for this) that the location of the vent pipes need to be a certain distance away from a flammable structure, like a fence.

My email, sent Feb.27, 2019:

” I live next to a gas station that was recently renovated, with new underground gasoline storage tanks. The vents were moved from a previously troublefree location, far from my house. The vents are now 4′ from my property line, then another 24′ from my house. They are adjacent to my front door and most of the windows on my house. When there is a tanker refuelling, gas fumes are sometimes released. My yard is often filled with gasoline vapours. Depending on the wind direction my house is often infiltrated by gasoline vapours – despite all my windows and doors being closed. This is toxic and volatile. My property is on a lower elevation (approx 40″) so the vapours sink. There is nothing I can do to rid the house of gasoline vapours when there is an infiltration as opening the windows and doors would only let more vapours inside. I have made numerous reports to the TSSA and the Ministry of the Environment regarding this. The TSSA has sent an inspector who witnessed a refuelling, who had to admit there was a problem. I believe this situation is potentially extremely dangerous. Can the OFM help me or is there another enitity I should contact ? I am in London, ON.”

Their reply (March 12, 2019):

“Hello Ms. Johnson,

On behalf of the Office of the Fire Marshall and Emergency Management, I’d be pleased to respond to your question about gas stations. A shortcut to the Ontario Fire Code and a transcript of your question can be found beneath my signature. I have also included links to the various links of legislation cited in this message.

The Technical Standards and safety Authority (TSSA) regulates gas stations under Ontario Regulation 217/01, a regulation under the Technical Standards and Safety Act. 2000. The regulation adopts the Liquid Fuels Handling Code, 2017 (LFHC), which specifies the requirements for the storage, handling and dispensing of gasoline and associated products that are used as fuel in motor vehicles or motorized watercraft. All gas stations are required to comply with the LFHC. However, they are not necessarily required to comply with the Ontario Fire Code, and part 4 of division B of the Ontario Fire code specifically deals with flammable and combustable liquids. However, Part 4 does NOT apply to the storage, handling, transportation and use of flammable liquids to which the TSSA Act, 2000 apply. This is referenced under the Ontario Fire Code, clause 4.1.1.2.(2)(a). This provision outlines that TSSA is the authority having jurisdiction as it relates to gas stations. If offensive odours continue to persist, I would suggest that you re-engage with TSSA to express your concerns and/or discuss this matter with a member of your municipal government.

I have provided the coordinates for you to connect with customer service represntatives from TSSA.

regards,

Jay Current P.Eng

Fire Protection Engineer

Office of the Fire marshal & Emergency Management”

He attached a bunch of links, including one for the Liquid Fuel Handling Guide, which only took me to a portion of the site where I could buy my own copy ($ 135.00, remember ?) but not actually access the code.

Again – authority is deferred to the TSSA, who does not actually have any code pertaining to the distance these vents should be from a residence. The TSSA  who does not take any samples to prove the vents are functioning properly or safely, the same TSSA who gave authority for the guy who approved the vent location to INSPECT his own work when an issue is reported. The same TSSA dude who told me I would be charged an hourly rate if he has to come back to my address again.

Shameful.

Despite Everything…

…I continue to fix my house. Even though I believe its value is greatly diminished due to the infiltration of gasoline vapours. Even though the air quality may be periodically unsafe. Where else could I go ?

At present, my bedroom overlooks the gas station parking lot. I can hear the tire compressor, loud car stereos, conversations, idling delivery trucks, and it all drives me nuts and interrupts my sleep.

I am switching rooms to move my bedroom to the quietest location. However, this means I have to fix two rooms to do this – as the future bedroom had to have the contents displaced, and my present bedroom has sloping ceilings that my bookcases would not fit under.

The first room in progress is the west bedroom – the biggest and brightest of the bedrooms. It also had a tragic ceiling and rough walls, painted with that dastardly “Jackson Tan” chocolate milk color. The previous owner tried to fix the ceiling with really incomplete knowledge of what this entailed. There were large areas of shaggy, half scraped off wallpaper, painted over, NINE patches using drywall that was too thick (affixed with wood screws that were too short, not even drywall screws), lots of blobs of joint compound and visible fiberglass mesh tape.

Since the space upstairs is limited, I had to work around the three large bookcases that were already in the room. I emptied them, and pushed them around as necessary to access the wall or ceiling. All the books were displaced, which meant tall stacks in the bedroom. The contents went into the rest of the house, everywhere, a big mess.

I don’t know how many plaster washers I used, or how many buckets of joint compound I went through. I skim coated, and re-skim coated, then skim coated some more to minimize the frankenstein monster ceiling. The walls had the same terrible plaster present in the rest of the house, with the crumbling scratch coat and the 3mm thick finish coat.

All the trim had been painted with the same water based enamel, the one that had the iffy preparation upstairs in the hall. I had to scrape and sand that, then paint it all out with adhesion primer. The Queen Anne style windows each had 16 small panes of stained glass, 1/3 of which were pressed pattern glass on the inside, so these all had to be carefully cut in as it is very difficult to scrape paint off textured glass.

Every step went so slowly and laboriously. I could only fix 3/4 of the walls and ceiling, because of the bookcases in the way. This meant I had to work to finish one area while another area hadn’t been touched yet. This made the room extra ugly and chaotic feeling.

Sanding was horrible, especially the ceiling. Because of the large areas that were skim coated I had to use extra stinky oil based primer, which stuck in my hair, skin, glasses.

Finally the point came where the walls and ceiling were unremarkable looking again. They weren’t perfect, but they weren’t shaggy and cracked, with visible drywall patches anymore.

Realtor’s photo expressing the “potential” for this room, with very lightened wall color, and an inflatable bed impersonating a bedroom suite. It looks pleasant but the actual reality of the wall and ceiling situation was minimized, to say the least:

realtorbroom1.jpg

The ceiling after scraping off the loose paint and remaining wallpaper:

ceilingbegin.jpg

How much repair the walls needed. They were all this bad:

broomprogress.jpg

Finally the room was done enough. Not perfect but fine:

broomhall.jpeg

broomafter.jpeg

Now I get to repeat this process in the future bedroom, which has equally bad walls but a slightly less bad ceiling. No textured glass to paint around at least:

Futurebroom.jpg

There is an iffy bulkhead (not shown) I am trying to leave alone and three sconces attached to giant, large, thick wood needle – like objects. I suspect there were major incisions made in the plaster to wire the sconces, so instead of fixing the plaster these goofy things were made to cover that. Are the electrical boxes properly and safely situated ? I’ll have to get those clunky things off to find out…

To get away from the gas station noise and light I will do this.

Getting Nowhere with the TSSA and MOE

I contacted the person from the Ministry of the Environment, who had come with the TSSA inspector last time. February 2019 had THREE gasoline vapour infiltrations inside my home.

I was told that the TSSA inspector and the MOE representative would be present at a scheduled refuelling, and they would contact me in advance. I made sure I could be present.

They arrived as scheduled yesterday, March 14, 2019. I let them into my house and showed them the windows and doors. We walked around outside the house on the north side, so they could see that there were storm windows and storm doors, and no gaping holes in my exterior or rotten window frames with holes. We went into the basement, to establish that there were no gasoline odours seeping up through the slab. This would happen if the underground gasoline storage tank was leaking, or had leaked. They said they wanted to get a sense of what my house smelt like, prior to a tanker refuelling. I had been careful to not do any priming, in the bedroom with plaster repairs in progress.

Again, neither individual brought any type of equipment to gather air samples.

I predicted that there would NOT be a gasoline infiltration as the wind was blowing south – southeast. The TSSA dude tried to claim the wind was blowing in the opposite direction. This wasn’t what the Environment Canada website said, just a few minutes prior.

The TSSA representative tried to claim that that I did not understand the code pertaining to vents. Here’s that code again, from the 2017 TSSA Liquid Fuels Handling Code (SKU 2425551):

ventpipescode.png

He tried to tell me that this code ONLY pertained to vents on aboveground tanks, which this was not. I told him that the TSSA had emailed me this code in reply to my inquiry, so I did not have further context for this code. If I wanted to buy my own copy, the CSA (Canadian Standards Association) would be happy to sell me one, for $ 135.00:

https://store.csagroup.org/ccrz__ProductDetails?sku=2425551

(Why this code is not accessible public knowledge is a mystery to me. I could not find any PDF copies online. I asked at the library, thinking they might have access. The woman who helped me spent quite awhile searching, even Western University’s catalogue, but there was not a copy to be found. She also found the link where a copy could be ordered but on the library’s computer the price was $135.00 USD. She was baffled by the high price of the document, and the obstructive secrecy.)

He pulled up his copy of the code on his phone, which included the context for the section on vents. I read it, the MOE representative read it and oops ! It did NOT apply to aboveground gasoline storage tanks – these were excluded from this section. It was the correct section of code for venting on an underground tank. (WTF TSSA inspector ?!)

Eventually the tanker truck showed up to do a fill. I sat with the TSSA dude and the MOE dude in my kitchen, waiting to see if there would be a gasoline infiltration. The MOE guy looked out the window in the door, watching the vents, to see if he could see the vapours as they were venting.

As predicted, there was no gasoline infiltration. I have been upfront when I have reported the infiltrations to the Ministry of the Environment that the gasoline vapour infiltrations are NOT happening with every fill.

I explained, again, that as a homeowner – there was nothing I could do to correct this situation. Even a 20 foot tall solid masonry fence – which the city certainly would not permit – could not prevent the gasoline vapours from drifting over or around, to settle and sink into my yard or be forced through the small spaces around my windows and doors when the wind blows from the west or northwest.

Even if my house was sealed with windows that didn’t open – I would have a ventilation intake – probably on the north side of my house, as that was where the furnace and water heater were vented.

The TSSA dude suggested an air purifier. I strongly doubted this would help with gasoline vapours as they are designed for ordinary household issues – like damp, mold, smoking and pet allergens.

Despite the vent code stating plainly that the vents were to be located so that the gasoline vapours would not enter a building – it says this twice – or affect people – the TSSA dude continued to claim that the vent was in compliance.

I asked why the vent had been relocated, and he said that it was due to some electrical issue, and also the ventilation system for the convenience store. What ? That building was RENOVATED – and there was plenty of space for their ventilation system to go. In fact they had moved the entrance doorway. An underground gasoline storage tank is much bigger than any electrical components.

They sat around for about 45 minutes . There was no gasoline odour inside or outside my house.

Some stuff was said off the record – but overall what I was told came down to this:

  • since they had not witnessed a problem, they would not be returning for a further inspection. It was up to me to prove there is a problem
  •  if I continued to report these issues, and the TSSA inspector was sent again as a result, that I would be charged an hourly rate plus travelling time. Frankly, this felt like a threat
  • even if there was clear documentation of gas infiltration, that it would be up to the gas station owner to correct this problem (vent location), as on paper the vent location was in compliance with the TSSA’s CSA code

The burden of proof is on my shoulders. The TSSA, MOE or gas station owner or parent company is exempt from proving that there is NO PROBLEM.

Did I mention that I have emailed my local city councillor, Michael Van Holst a couple of times regarding this issue, and that he has never even acknowledged my emails ?

I’m not going to shut up and pretend there is no problem. There is a very serious problem, and I did not make it, and there is nothing I can do to mitigate it.

 

 

 

 

Air Quality Testing

I emailed all the environmental consultants in the area. Several of them followed up my inquiry with a phone call. This is what I learned about getting the air quality in my house tested for gasoline vapours and benzene:

  • there are tests using a cannister device where I could gather the air samples myself. However, these would not be admissable as evidence in a legal context as there is no way to verify that I took the samples where I did, when I did, and if I had attempted to skew the results or they were an honest sample
  • a professional could come to take air quality samples inside my home. These are considered reliable evidence. The cost for this would be approximately $ 2200.00, including a written report of the lab results. Of course this would be a matter of luck that the testing personnel would be here during a gasoline infiltration to gather the samples. Not every fill results in an infiltration, which seems to be dependent on the wind direction. Potentially I could spend many thousands of dollars before I had documentation that gasoline vapours were strongly present in my home during a tanker filling.
  • there are no grants for a homeowner in my situation
  • the burden of proof is that I must establish that gasoline vapours are entering my house. The gas station or parent company has no responsibility to disprove the presence of gasoline vapours on or in my property.

At no time has the TSSA or Ministry of the Environment taken any air tests to prove that the air quality adjacent to the vent is safe during a tanker refuelling. I know that it is not.